I was hoping to bring you more good news today. England’s T20 cricketers started their series against New Zealand with a win. However, then I read some off-field news that rather knocked the stuffing out of me. Yes it’s another blow to first class cricket in our country.

Let’s deal with the good news first. England won comfortably at Christchurch’s beautiful Hagley Oval overnight. It’s always nice to watch cricket at such a picturesque ground (even if it was only on TV), and it’s even nicer to register a win there.

The pleasing thing was that the bowlers were largely responsible for this victory. England’s white ball bowling hasn’t always been stellar, which is why Mark Wood’s fitness and the availability of Jofra Archer were so crucial during the World Cup. However, there were no such worries last night. Everyone pulled their weight and things went rather swimmingly.

I’m not sure whether the Kiwis misread the pitch – Eoin Morgan said afterwards that he thought it was a little two-paced – but New Zealand’s batsmen never really got going on a somewhat sluggish surface.

The Curran brothers opened the bowling and both performed well. Sam might get more of the headlines, as he’s more of a media / supporter darling, but I was really impressed with Tom again. He never seems to let England down. If I was Ed Smith I’d probably summarise my feelings by saying that I like the cut of his jib.

There was absolutely no respite when England’s change bowlers entered the fray. I’ve never really been a Chris Jordan fan to be honest with you, but he’s a very experienced T20 player these days and I must admit that he bowled expertly.

Adil Rashid and young Pat Brown also did pretty well. The latter has just signed a deal to play in the Big Bash later this year. What a fantastic opportunity for the lad. Getting good firsthand experience of Australian conditions ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup down under is a win for both Brown and England.

New Zealand’s 153 was never likely to challenge England’s batsmen and so it proved. Once Malan and Bairstow got the team off to a solid start it was never really in doubt.

The star of the show was James Vince, who proved that timing and elegance still have their place in an era of master blasters. His 59 off 38 balls was a fine innings that almost got England over the line.

In the end it was left to Eoin Morgan, who scored a promising 34 off 21, and Sam Billings, who is turning into something of a finisher in the middle-order, to finish the game off.

Overall this was a really good performance after the set back in the second warm up game. Although some England supporters were probably disappointed not to catch a glimpse of Tom Banton, Matt Parkinson, or Saqib Mahmood, I think Chris Silverwood picked the best team for this particular game. The youngsters’ time will come.

So now we come to the fly in the ointment. The punch in the guts or the kick in the groin that we really didn’t need. And it comes courtesy of England’s Director Of Cricket, Ashley Giles. That’s Ashley “I promise to prioritise Test cricket” Giles.

I think we all knew that Gilo was talking bollocks when he made this promise. However, part of me couldn’t help hoping that he might be true to his word. More fool me.

Unfortunately Giles is turning into the ECB lackey we all suspected he would be. Why? Because he’s just announced that it could be championship fixtures, rather than the 50 over domestic competition, which runs alongside the ghastly Hundred from 2021.

This is utterly depressing news folks. As I mentioned the other day, The Hundred takes away the best (approximately) 95 players in county cricket – that’s the number of Kolpaks and English qualified players added together. Therefore any county competition without them is compromised in a massive way.

As things stand it will be the equivalent of the Royal London Cup that gets devalued in Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit’s inaugural season. However, good old Gilo, in his infinite wisdom, has finally identified that this presents a bit of a problem for England’s World Champion ODI team:

Fifty-over cricket remains really important. But we have to prioritise slightly differently over the next few years. We have two T20 World Cups ahead of the 2023 50-over World Cup. We’ll still play 50-over … can I sit here and say it’s the most important thing when it’s being playing alongside the Hundred? No, I can’t. You’d laugh at me.

Ok. So we get it. The ECB doesn’t want to sacrifice 50 over cricket with important white ball competitions coming up. But what about your promise to focus on red ball cricket? It seems you’ve conveniently forgotten all about that now.

What’s more, after admitting that he’d be talking rubbish if he tried to claim that whatever runs concurrently with the Hundred would not be devalued, he then goes on to do exactly that by trying to spin a weakened county championship as a positive thing:

People will say the integrity of the championship would be in question … but you could view it slightly differently … you could have a healthy mix of senior players who are not in the Hundred, alongside some 19 and 20-years-olds. You could have four rounds of Championship cricket at the height of summer, on good pitches that might spin. A lot of county members like seeing the young players, at outgrounds. That would be great.

Don’t patronise us Giles. Championship cricket without the best 95 players in the country will be crap. You know it. And We know it. So stop trying to polish a turd and present it as something exciting.

There’s only one thing in life worse than someone shafting you. And that’s someone shafting you (with a smile) whilst pretending that they’re not actually shafting you.

The bottom line, of course, is that there just isn’t room in the domestic calendar for four different forms of cricket. Whatever they do something will have to be sacrificed.

Before today we thought it would be 50 over cricket being sacrificed. But now we see that really it’s the county championship, again, that can go hang.

What’s worse, there’s a sting in the tail too. Apparently championship fixtures played during the Hundred might only carry half the normal league points. This means that the games would be both metaphorically and literally devalued at the same time. Indeed, one could argue that the whole competition will become unbalanced and devalued as a result.

But don’t worry folks. There will be plenty of hundred-ball bollocks to enjoy.

James Morgan

PS excuse me if this article isn’t as coherent as normal. I’ve been in bed all day with man flu. The screen is all blurry and now my blood pressure is through the roof too. Who’d be a cricket blogger in this day and age?! Please excuse any typos.

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